Meat

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Using electronic tags to track livestock is widespread in Europe. Proponents say it helps prevent and contain food-borne illnesses, but the idea is finding a mixed and often chilly reception in the United States.

Radio frequency identification, or RFID tags, can be put on an animal’s ear similar to the metal id clips currently used to identify animals and track them for inventory and health purposes.

But the RFID chips send out a signal, which is captured by a reader that uploads information into a database. They are in common use in industries ranging from logistics to amusement parks. 

File Photo / Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

Several large meat processing companies recently settled price-fixing lawsuits, but it’s unlikely those payments will change much in the food business, experts say.

Tyson agreed to a $221.5 million settlement with three consumer and purchasing groups that filed suit against the poultry giant. Chicken producer Pilgrim’s Pride and pork company JBS also settled similar complaints. 

A series of studies at Purdue University show it’s less expensive for companies to continue price fixing and pay fines instead of reforming their practices.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

A joint effort by federal and state governments to help small meatpacking plants increase their capacity is encountering some bumps. 

Earlier this year, COVID-19 outbreaks as large slaughterhouses and meat processing plants led to temporary closures. That resulted in higher prices and meat shortages at grocery stores, which in turn led some consumers to look at local meat from small, mostly rural processing plants.

While that demand was good for the industry, it also overtaxed the small processors’ ability to keep up.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Missouri and Oklahoma are both trying to help reduce the supply chain problems in the meat industry seen during the coronavirus pandemic by directing federal grant dollars to meatpacking plants.

Coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants led to shortages and higher prices.

“During COVID-19, our food supply was tested from farm to fork. Farmers and ranchers saw tight livestock supplies on their farms, while consumers saw their choices of certain cuts of meat shrink or go away,” said Chris Chinn, Director of the MIssouri Department of Agriculture.

Christina Stella / Harvest Public Media

Nebraska’s largest COVID-19 hotspots are meatpacking areas with deep immigrant roots. But many workers feel they can’t speak out about ongoing concerns with working conditions. Instead, the families of workers have organized, alleging many plants still aren’t socially distancing workers and don’t have enough PPE.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media file photo

A group of Midwestern feedlot operations have filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that several major meatpacking companies, including JBS, Cargill and Tyson, broke antitrust laws by conspiring to lower the prices paid to ranchers.   

In the past few years, price-fixing allegations have been leveled against poultry and pork industries. And it’s not clear whether any of the lawsuits for any type of meat producers will bring about reforms.

Jonathan Ahl / Harvest Public Media

Meat and dairy are piling up across the U.S. It has cold storage places packed to the rafters, and the federal government, which subsidizes the agriculture industry, looking for ways to alleviate the problem, at least in the short-term.

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media

Like many of the refugees who have resettled in Greeley, Colorado, 35-year-old Abul Basar is employed by JBS.

It’s a massive meatpacking plant that processes thousands of cattle per day and employs over 3,000 people. After a year of working on the plant’s processing line, where he disembowel cow carcasses with a large electric knife, Basar injured his right hand.

Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

The U.S. meat industry is gigantic, with roughly $200 billion a year in sales and growing. But the industry faces emerging threats on two fronts: plant-based meat substitutes and actual meat grown in labs.

Harvest Public Media file photo

The coalition behind a lawsuit challenging Missouri’s new meat-labeling law asked a federal judge this week to stop the state from enforcing it.

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